The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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Always on the lookout for new places to eat, we ended up at Southern Fresh in downtown Safety Harbor for dinner tonight.  They’re in the building across from the post office that used to house Brady’s BBQ, then Lulu’s.  It’s a small space inside, but way too cold to eat outside tonight, though their patio area is very nice with a fire pit out front.  The menu isn’t very big, though everything we tried was pretty tasty.

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Loren started out with the BLT soup.

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His first reaction was that it was a soup that tasted like a sandwich.  He was really surprised and pleased with the taste.  The combination of tomato, bacon, shallots, and romaine was completely reminiscent of a BLT sandwich.  He’d definitely order it again.   Everything is made fresh here, so there was a bit of a wait for our entrees.  Loren got the salmon salad.

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The salmon was cooked well and he liked the capers in the salad which added a unique little salty twist to the dish.  He said it all mixed well with the candied lemon zest on top.  I went for the fried chicken, mashed potatoes and roasted veggies.

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The chicken was perfectly cooked.  Nice & crispy on the outside and moist and delicious inside.  My only criticism is that it could have used more seasoning.  I found it to be just a little on the bland side.  The mashed potatoes were peppery and could have really used some gravy.  The veggies were a mix of carrots, brussel sprouts, onions, and zucchini.  They had two desserts available tonight, so we got one of each.

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The strawberry shortcake was on a sponge cake and had a fresh, not-too-sweet strawberry sauce on it.  Loren scarfed the entire thing.  I happily enjoyed my banana pudding.  Overall, it was a very enjoyable meal.  Total bill with a drink was $43.

Southern Fresh
122 3rd Ave N
Safety Harbor, FL
727-216-6341

Southern Fresh on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere4/5
Value3/5
3.9/5

Loren was craving a steak tonight, so we headed out to the Longhorn in Palm Harbor.  The wait was about 40 minutes, but we figured anywhere we went on a Friday at 6pm was going to be busy.  The Longhorn currently has a Steakhouse Dinner for Two deal going on.  It includes an appetizer or dessert, salads, and two entrees for $25.  While we waited on our appetizer, we dug into the bread.

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This is the way bread should be.  It was warm and slightly chewy and oh so yummy.  We just kept eating more & more of it.  Luckily, our calamari appetizer arrived before we completely stuffed ourselves on bread.

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The calamari was cooked pretty well, but any longer in the fryer and it would have been tough.  It had a nice crunch and the smoky tomato ranch dipping sauce was awesome!  I need to figure out how to make that at home.

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They really had the timing down perfectly tonight.  As soon as we finished our appetizer, the salads came right out and our entrees were served just as the waiter was clearing the salad plates.  As busy as they were, I was happily surprised to not be sitting around wondering where our food was.  Loren went for the Renegade steak & baked potato.

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He said the steak wasn’t quite tender enough, but was perfectly cooked and seasoned.  The 6 oz size was just the right amount for him too.  I went for the salmon with a side of sweet potato bites.

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I’ve found my new favorite side dish.  These things were amazing.  They had a sweet, maple syrupy aroma, but had the texture of a tater tot.  It was almost like a butterscotch candy, but not overly sweet.  Yummy!  The salmon was perfectly cooked and very good.  The only thing I didn’t like was the rice.  It was way too spicy for me.  I don’t know what kind of peppers were mixed into it, but I took one bite and my mouth was not happy.

We don’t go to too many chain restaurants, but we both agreed that this was one of the better dining experiences we’ve had recently.  The restaurant was large and crowded, but they’ve figured out how to control the noise level so we could carry on a conversation.  The service was attentive, but not intruding.  Each course was served and plates were cleared in a timely manner and the food was very good.  Total bill with a drink was $30.

Longhorn Steakhouse
35645 US Highway 19
Palm Harbor, FL
(727) 781-9300

Longhorn Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere4/5
Value4/5
4.0/5

We went to a holiday dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Westshore Plaza with about a dozen people.  The only reservation they could get was at 4:30pm, but we didn’t get out of there until around 8:30pm.  I didn’t take any photos during the meal, but still wanted to comment on the food.

The bread on the table was soft and chewy and very good.  We also got the fried calamari, fried zucchini, stuffed mushrooms and mussels for appetizers.  I didn’t try the mussels, but the people who did seemed to really enjoy them.  The zucchini was very good.  Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  I’d definitely order it again.  Both the stuffed mushrooms and calamari were good too.  I think everyone at the table was full before our entrees came out.

Loren got the salmon oscar and really liked it.  The salmon was cooked well and the crab and sauce on top had some wonderful flavors.  I ordered the mushroom ravioli with braised veal in a marsala cream sauce.  It was delicious.  From the first bite to the last, the textures and flavors just danced in my mouth.  It was yummy.  Everyone at the table seemed to really enjoy the food.  We also got dessert which I ended up taking over half of it home because it was huge.

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This is what was left after Loren & I ate some and we gave some to another person at the table.  It was a huge piece of chocolate cake with a Sambuca mousse.  It was moist and rich and very chocolatety; however, I probably wouldn’t order it again.  I didn’t know what Sambuca was before I ordered it (an anise flavored liqueur), but it seems that both Loren & I had the same reaction to it.  It numbed the roof of my mouth and my tongue.  It was a very odd feeling.

 

There were a few issues with the evening.  There was one entree that didn’t come out until almost everyone was halfway through eating.  I guess it got overcooked in the kitchen, so they had to prepare a new one.  The restaurant is very loud and parking is a small nightmare, but granted this was the Friday before Christmas.  I don’t know what the final bill was, but it wasn’t cheap.  The prices are a bit on the high side, but the food was really good.  We don’t get over to that part of Tampa very often, but we’d definitely eat at Maggiano’s again.

Maggiano’s Little Italy
203 Westshore Plz
Tampa, FL
813-288-9000

Maggiano's Little Italy on Urbanspoon

Food5/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value3/5
3.8/5
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  • Filed under: Italian, Tampa
  • New Waiter


    We ate dinner at Rumba Island in Oldsmar tonight.  When the waiter came to our table, he told us we were his first customers ever.  At first I was a little scared, but I gotta say, he did better than most of the wait staff we’ve had recently.  Have I mentioned that I love the corn muffins here?

    I ordered off of the early bird menu and got the BBQ salmon with mashed sweet potatoes and rice.

    I really enjoyed this dish.  The salmon was cooked perfectly and the BBQ sauce was sweet and tangy.  Loren got the blackened hogfish with greens and mashed potatoes.  It also came with a salad.

    He said it was a bit on the spicy side, but cooked very nicely.  I felt the need for something chocolatey, so we split the smores brownie.

    Loren thought the chocolate sauce was overkill, but I liked it.  It had toasted marshmallow on top the brownie.  This was probably one of the best meals I’ve eaten here.  Total bill with a drink was $34.

    Rumba Island Bar & Grill
    3687 Tampa Road
    Oldsmar, FL
    (813) 475-5974

    Rumba Island Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

    Food4/5
    Service4/5
    Atmosphere3/5
    Value3/5
    3.7/5

    We decided to give Bella Kouzina another try, but unfortunately, this visit wasn’t any better than the last.  It started with the fried calamari.

    We order calamari almost every place that has it on the menu, so I think I’m a pretty good judge of how it should taste.  This was just beyond chewy and had no flavor whatsoever.  When the waitress stopped by and asked how it was, I told her it was chewy.  She looked at me and said, “But, it’s calamari.”   I’m guessing she’s just never had calamari cooked the right way before.  She took it back to the kitchen and we heard someone say “drop another order of calamari”.  Since nothing else was said as to cooking it differently, we ended up sending the second batch back as well & they took it off our check.  The waitress said they must have just gotten a bad shipment.  Personally, we both thought they just didn’t have the oil at the right temperature, so it was getting overcooked.  But, on to the soups.

    Loren got the clam chowder and I got the pasta fagioli.  His had a decent flavor, but it wasn’t thick and creamy.  My first bite tasted like baked beans and each subsequent bite had sort of a metallic taste when it hit my tongue.  Loren said he could taste what I was tasting as well.  The bread, however, was the highlight of the meal for me.

    Loren ordered the salmon Cleopatra which had artichokes, celery and mushrooms in a white wine lemon sauce.

    He said it was ok.  At first, he didn’t like the sauce on it. I tasted it and thought it  just tasted like olive oil with a little bit of lemon in it. His dish also came with pasta.  He said it was overcooked and the sauce wasn’t great.   I decided to try the pastitsio.

    Again, this is a dish I order at most Greek restaurants, so I expect certain flavors.  This one didn’t deliver.  Instead of being cooked as one large dish and portioned out, it looks like an individual serving was made.  The pasta wasn’t drained properly, so there was water in the bottom of the bowl.  The meat filling had no flavor and the pasta sauce was tart.  It hadn’t cooked anywhere near long enough to develop any decent flavors.  This was a pretty disappointing meal for $29.

    Bella Kouzina
    3101 SR 580
    Safety Harbor, FL
    (727) 797–2667

    Bella Kouzina on Urbanspoon

    Food2/5
    Service3/5
    Atmosphere3/5
    Value2/5
    2.5/5